My City, My Metro

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    By Ashfaq Ahmed, Chief Reporter   www.gulfnews.com  

    Dubai: The Dubai Metro project has gone through massive 50 to 55 per cent changes in terms of its design and facilities since its inception to cope with the growing needs of the city, said the chief of Dubai Roads and Transport Authority (RTA).

    “The cost has also increased a lot due to changes in the Metro project since the awarding of the Dh15.5 billion contract in 2005,” revealed Mattar Al Tayer, Chairman of the Board and the Executive Director of the RTA. He added the Metro construction cost increase runs into billions of dirhams. However, he did not reveal the figure saying that they would announce it after the completion of the project next year.In an exclusive interview with Gulf News, Al Tayer spoke at length about the metro project, challenges the RTA faced while improving the road and transport infrastructure and the revised strategic plan of the RTA suiting the changing development trends in Dubai and the Salik toll system.

    He said the integrated public transport projects spearheaded by the Metro would change the lifestyle in rapidly expanding urban areas of Dubai and will meet the transport needs of generations to come.

    “Take a ride for once or twice on the Metro and you will get used to it because it is the best metro system in the world,” Al Tayer urged residents.

    Following are excerpts from his interview:

    Gulf News: How will the Dubai Metro help reduce traffic? What are your expectations especially after the traffic on the roads have also been eased due to the RTA’s massive road improvement and partially due to economic recession?

    Mattar Al Tayer: The Dubai Metro is the backbone of the RTA’s strategic mass transport plans in the emirate to solve traffic congestion and provide alternate mode of commuting.

    With the launch of the metro, the RTA aims at increasing the current six per cent public transport share of commuting to around 30 per cent by 2020 and the metro is expected to take 17 per cent of this share.

    It is expected that the metro operation will bring a major shift in Dubai’s public transport culture and will lead to significant changes in mobility habit of people here.

    How will you achieve this target?

    The RTA realises the importance of promoting the efficient use of the metro in order to make it a real competitor to private cars particularly for work trips which form the main component of traffic and cause traffic congestion during peak hours.

    This will be achieved through the high-quality metro service, reasonable ticket fare, well integration with public buses in the vicinity of metro station and catering to different segments of society. We need to educate more than 200 nationalities in Dubai regarding the benefits of using the metro. He said that the public buses efficiency will be improved from the current 35 per cent to 75 per cent by next year following one of the world’s best transport systems in Singapore-which is our benchmark for integrated transport system.

    What are the plans for the construction of the Purple and the Blue lines?

    The Purple and the Blue Metro Lines are part of the RTA’s transport plans and we launch our projects based on growth trends and changes in the emirate in order to best serve the Dubai’s mobility requirements.

    The RTA has completed the preliminary design and tender documents for the Purple Line. However, due to slowdown in the development in the area and the changes in major development projects along the planned route, it was necessary to re-study the implementation of the project. The lines will be built but following the revised plans.

    How does the RTA finance its projects?

    The RTA as part of the Dubai government gets financing for its projects in compliance with the vision of His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, for the Dubai city. In addition to the government support, the RTA is generating revenues from its services provided to the public which provided partial funding for its projects.

    What changes have you made in your projects due to economic downturn?

    Thanks to the wisdom and support of Shaikh Mohammad, the impact of the current international financial crisis on our projects has been minimal.

    None of our ongoing projects has been stopped or abandoned. However, we have gone through a major review of the scope of the projects to set their priorities to match the changed growth trend in Dubai.

    The RTA will continue developing transport infrastructure system under the realisation that this will help refreshing Dubai economy and accelerate the recovery of its economy.

    Are you planning to make the RTA a self-supporting authority without depending on the government funding?

    Yes, we are. This is one of the goals of the RTA’s Strategic Plan for 2009-2013. The RTA has already conducted a couple of studies to investigate possible options to maximise its revenues and minimise costs. We understand the difficulty of achieving such a challenging goal but we will pursue all efforts required to achieve it. We hope to be self-supporting authority after three years.

    What are the major hindrances in achieving your target to develop road and transport infrastructure in Dubai and how the RTA overcame them?

    The extremely fast urban development and massive population growth was one of the major challenges to carry out our projects. The massive development led to very fast growth of up to 17 per cent in car ownership every year during the last few years and this has led to high traffic volumes on the city roads. The lack of availability of planning data related to major developments projects in Dubai is yet another challenge to carry out the projects.

    What are the plans for the public-private sector partnerships and which projects will be offered for such joint ventures?

    It is RTA’s strategic goal to increase private sector participation in future transport infrastructure projects. All major transport infrastructure projects in future would have private-public partnership (PPP). “We are working with international consultants and are studying the best international practices to launch the PPP concept especially for building the future metro lines and running public buses.

    What is the status of the station naming rights?

    Currently, we have ten brand names that have been awarded naming rights for the stations. Some 12 more stations are still available for naming rights bids and we are looking at potential partners for these stations over the next few months.

    What is the response to the metro stations outlets leasing?

    There are 202 retail outlets in the stations on the Red and the Green lines. There has been strong demand from the retail sector in the areas of convenience stores, cafes and financial services. Some 85 per cent of the outlets have been successfully leased out and we are finalising the contract negotiations for the last 15 per cent.

    The Dubai Metro is the world’s longest driverless automated railway system with of about 76 kilometres of rail tracks and 47 stations. 

    The Metro will use the world’s most advanced leading state of the art technology system that will guarantee the highest standards and excellence in the safety, reliability, efficiency and punctuality. 

    –  The signalling system used previously in Hong Kong and Vancouver and provided by Tales (the sub-contractors) has proven to be one of the most advanced and reliable systems in the world.

    – The passenger train system is supplied by Kinki Sharyo, a Japanese manufacturer. These trains are deemed to be the most reliable and efficient system in use by the railway industry.

    – The Metro will be operated by the Operations Control Centre the ‘brain unit’ behind the overall operations. It will coordinate the mapping of the system and be responsible for the system at large.

    – The Operations Control Centre will be responsible for the incidents and event management coordination, emergency coordination, evacuation strategies, issue of instructions, service regulations and information, fault reporting and analysis, performance reporting, coordinating possessions and control of the traction power supply.

    –  The Red Line will be monitored by the OCC in Al Rashidiya and each station will be managed locally under the authority of a station master. n A two-week simulation period will take place before the Metro’s launch on September 9.